Dilution by Ar of silane plasma has been reported to increase the stability of a-Si:H films. A critical question is whether Ar diluted i-layers offer higher stabilized solar cell efficiencies than the conventional hydrogen dilution method. We have fabricated a-Si:H p-i-n solar cells with RF-PECVD i-layers by Ar dilution of silane. Ar dilution ratio (ADR, Ar/SiH4), RF power,pressure, and i-layer thickness were varied. At low ADR < 20, such solar cells show comparable initial efficiencies and stability as those devices having H2-diluted i-layers of similar thickness. For cells made with ADR > 20, the initial efficiency decreases dramatically with further increase in Ar dilution, and light soaking causes only mild changes in efficiencies. The stabilized efficiencies of cells made with high ADR are inferior to the cells produced with low ADR or cells prepared by H2 dilution. Further, Voc of solar cells made with high ADR (> 50) decreases substantially in ambient, indicating a porous microstructure susceptible to oxidation. While thermal annealing improves the Voc, a full recovery of Voc is made by accelerated light soaking.
The combination of high power and high ADR can lead to nanocrystalline silicon (nc-Si:H) growth, although nucleation is much more difficult to attain by the Ar dilution method compared to hydrogen dilution. We have succeeded in fabricating p-i-n solar cells with nc-Si:H i-layers prepared by the Ar dilution approach. The double dilution by Ar and hydrogen of silane (Ar+H2+SiH4) can result in nc-Si:H i-layers with enhanced long wavelength spectral response compared to devices incorporating nc-Si:H i-layers grown by H2 dilution only. The nc-Si:H solar cells with Ar+H2 diluted i-layers exhibit no light-induced degradation.
Using energetic Ar-rich plasma, in a process much simpler than the traditional nc-Si:H technique, doped a-Si:H thin layers can be prepared to form excellent tunnel junctions for multi-junction solar cells. We demonstrate such a novel, non-contaminating tunnel junction in tandem a-Si/a-Si and a-Si/nc-Si solar cells entirely fabricated in a single-chamber RF-PECVD system.